Our Libraries’ Future

Posted by Public Policy Lab

We have long felt that libraries are fascinating and under-recognized sites for service provision. Two comprehensive new reports, from the Pew Internet & American Life Project and New York City’s Center for an Urban Future concur and describe the current state and future possibilities for public libraries.

The Pew study, Library Services in the Digital Age, reports on findings from a national survey of 2,252 Americans, specifically asking about the impact of the Internet on library usage. When polled on the services they want libraries to provide, significant majorities of respondents replied:

  • Coordinating more closely with local schools: 85% of Americans ages 16 and older say libraries should “definitely” do this.
  • Offering free literacy programs to help young children: 82% of Americans ages 16 and older say libraries should “definitely do” this.
  • Having more comfortable spaces for reading, working, and relaxing:59% of Americans ages 16 and older say libraries should “definitely do” this.
  • Offering a broader selection of e-books: 53% of Americans ages 16 and older say libraries should “definitely do” this.

See the complete Pew report [pdf] for more on the role of libraries in people’s lives and communities, what people do at libraries and library websites, technology use at libraries, what people want from their libraries, and the a wrap-up on the present and future of libraries.

A report from the Center for an Urban Future details changes in New York CIty’s libraries over the past decade.

Meanwhile, Center for an Urban Future’s Branches of Opportunity describes how “New York City’s public libraries are serving more people in more ways than ever before, and have become an increasingly critical part of the city’s human capital system; but… have been undervalued by policymakers and face growing threats in today’s digital age.”

The full CUF report [pdf] delves into the role of libraries for New York’s seniors, students, job-seekers, entrepreneurs, and immigrant populations, then identifies current threats and future opportunities. Finally, more than a dozen targeted recommendations identify ways to increase libraries’ value for New Yorkers.